Headlines of 2019: Let’s Get It Over With (Christopher Buckley)
There are now over a dozen investigations into Trump’s various scandals. If we lived in a healthy society, the ensuing indictments would be handled in a serious way — somber congressional hearings, dispassionate court proceedings. Everybody would step back and be sobered by the fact that our very system of law is at stake.
But we don’t live in a healthy society and we don’t have a healthy president.
Trump doesn’t recognize, understand or respect institutional authority. He only understands personal power. He sees every conflict as a personal conflict in which he destroys or gets destroyed.
When the indictments come down, Trump won’t play by the rules. He’ll seek to delegitimize those rules. He’ll seek to delegitimize our legal institutions. He’ll personalize every indictment, slander every prosecutor. He’ll seek to destroy the edifice of law in order to save himself.
We know the language he’ll use. It will be the anti-establishment, anti-institutional language that has been coursing through the left and right for the past few decades: The establishment is corrupt, the game is rigged, the elites are out to get you.
At that point congressional leaders will face the defining choice of their careers: Where does their ultimate loyalty lie, to the Constitution or to their party?
The era of limited government is emphatically over in the only political party where it once had some appeal. The GOP’s nonnegotiable demand is now a monumental public works project … A proposal that may eventually cost $40 billion (in an estimate by MIT engineers) has been shaped more by the president’s political instincts than by serious study of alternatives. Agents in the field overwhelmingly request better technology and more personnel rather than longer and higher border barriers.
Michael Gerson. Make that “a massive public works project with an East German vibe.”
(Trigger warning: This is from Garrison Keillor, on whom I have not given up as a writer. Your mileage may vary.)
As inauguration approached, a story went around about Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room performing (alleged) bodily functions on his person as recorded by (so it was said) the KGB, all of which was leaked to the media, and suddenly people were passing puns like water and referring to the Republican potty — the story made a big splash, very amusing to an Episcopalian like me. Apparently, if you’re in Moscow, it’s not like Peoria. Scantily clad girls kneel over you, doing their business, saying: “You’re not just a man, you’re a nation.”
At a news conference, the Man denied all, of course, standing at a podium the size of a urinal with the sign “Office of the President Elect” on it. President-elect is not an office; it is a person waiting to take office. The sign belongs in the Smithsonian along with Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help 5¢.” He looked as if he still couldn’t quite believe that he was Number One.
Goodness knows I have a confirmation bias for lurid stories about Evangelicals, but this seems pretty over-the-top.
“Get ready to king in our future lives,” he tells his followers. “Christian believers will — soon, I hope — become the consummate, perfect governing authorities!”
Ralph Drollinger, Trump White House spiritual insider, quoted in an uneven-quality article by Katherine Stewart. I’m unclear on whether this quote is prophecy porn or anticipates temporal power in the current “dispensation.”
I have attended dozens of Christian nationalist conferences and events over the past two years. And while I have heard plenty of comments casting doubt on the more questionable aspects of Mr. Trump’s character, the gist of the proceedings almost always comes down to the belief that he is a miracle sent straight from heaven to bring the nation back to the Lord. I have also learned that resistance to Mr. Trump is tantamount to resistance to God.
This isn’t the religious right we thought we knew. The Christian nationalist movement today is authoritarian, paranoid and patriarchal at its core. They aren’t fighting a culture war. They’re making a direct attack on democracy itself.
They want it all. And in Mr. Trump, they have found a man who does not merely serve their cause, but also satisfies their craving for a certain kind of political leadership.
I would fault Ms. Stewart for a deficit of Christian charity, but:
- I don’t know if she purports to be Christian.
- I’m far less than 100% certain that she’s exaggerating.
- I don’t know whether these personnages are mainstream or fringe, so far is Evangelicalism behind me.
- I have heard Evangelicals say that resistance to (Republican) presidents is resistance to God since Richard Nixon.
- I have an old Evangelical friend who told me angrily in email in 2016 that Trump was the finest candidate she’d ever had the privilege of voting for (and she had been voting since Nixon). She also used the King Cyrus trope.
That’s Evangelicalism that’s behind me, note well; I am still Christian and deny the equation of Evangelical therewith.
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